The Future’s Not Exactly Open Wide in I Melt With You

12/07/2011 4:00 AM |

I Melt with You
Directed by Mark Pellington

At least according to the grand scheme of gender stereotypes, there comes a time in every man’s life when youth must be grasped before it is too late, when young girls and fast cars become essential compensation for dreams gone astray. I Melt With You is a spectacularly failed attempt to turn this typical mid-life crisis tale into a genre-mashing thriller. What was probably meant to be daring and new instead piles cliché after cliché so thick that even the distractingly pseudo-experimental cinematography can’t save the film, which serves to push only one painfully clear message: it’s all downhill from here.

The film features four college friends who meet once a year, this time up at the cinematically perfect Big Sur, to briefly return to the past. Here, then, is supposed proof of life’s ugly truths: Richard (Thomas Jane) is a one-time wild-child writer who has now been reduced to a bitter and quippy high-school English teacher. Ron (Jeremy Piven) is the smarmy businessman who has turned corrupt simply out of the satisfaction of providing for his family. Jonathan (Rob Lowe) is an unscrupulous doctor, a depressed divorcee with a young son he never sees, who passes out prescriptions in exchange for cash. Tim (Christian McKay) is the poetic homosexual haunted by a sordid past which is never properly explained; his entire role is to set up the other characters with pointed questions such as, “Did your life turn out as you wanted it to?” Obviously not.

Through far too many scenes scored to blaring 80s nostalgia songs from the Pixies and the Bauhaus, we are introduced to the dudes’ hard-partying ways. Young college kids, picked up from a local bar by Richard, are brought to the house to party for some in-your-face juxtaposition by Pellington,in case it wasn’t clear in the one hundred other ways it was mentioned, these men were young once too, so full of idealism and hope for all of the possibilities the future could hold, only to finally realize, in their mid-forties, what most realize as soon as they graduate with a bachelor’s degree: life is pretty fucking disappointing.

The tone changes when Tim revives an idiotic, likely drug-induced pact from their past that only proves these men had set themselves up for failure long ago. Unable to imagine a life that didn’t encompass all of their wildest hopes and dreams, they make drastic decisions in a drug-fueled haze of despair. Despite the barrage of reminders that these men are past their glorious prime, a time when supposedly all they did was enjoy the fruits of hedonism, it’s hard to sympathize with a quartet of wealthy and healthy white men, especially when all of their supposed hardships seem self-inflicted. If all 40-somethings are still harboring these unrealistic fantasies, there is a lot to be concerned about in the years to come.

Opens December 9